I saw with only a modicum of surprise that Romania signed the papers to buy 12 F-16 fighter planes from Portugal the other day for a cost of 638 million euros. This plan has been in the works forever as the United States has been pressuring Bucharest hard for years to buy these planes and move away from their current inventory of Mig-21 Lancers.
In fact, even during the slash and burn of the Romanian budget in 2011 (which led to the downfall of the Boc government in early 2012 and the rise of Ponta’s USL), Basescu was leaning hard on his parliamentary allies to get this deal pushed through. And just two nights ago I heard Basescu (in a press conference) applaud this purchase and talk about how great it was, etc, etc.
Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know for a fact that the U.S. government has been pushing for this contract since at least 2007. In a cable from the American Embassy in Bucharest that mostly deals with the fallout from the callous murder of Teo Peter, we find this paragraph:
In the wake of this week’s controversy over the Ambassador’s criticism of the Parliament’s efforts to undermine the independence of Romanian prosecutors and their ability to investigate cases of bribery and corruption, a controversy over the Teo Peter award could enable our critics and opponents on the Romanian political scene to undermine other important initiatives which are just gathering momentum.
First and foremost among them is our accelerating effort, alongside Lockheed-Martin, to persuade Romania to pursue an F-16/JSF option to replace the country’s aging MiG fleet.
Lockheed-Martin, in tandem with allies in the Presidency and Ministry of Defense, are seeking a “sole-source” route to the fighter plane decision, which they do not want to see tied up in the Brussels bureaucracy by the F-16/JSF’s principal European competitors, Grippen and Eurofighter. This was always going to be a tricky exercise, with an expectation that supporters of a European fighter option would loudly cry foul. A firestorm over the Teo Peter case could possibly represent a tipping point away from a U.S. option, if only because of the optics.
Translating that into regular English, it’s saying that Basescu’s political enemies could fuck up the decision to buy American planes because everyone in Romania is so upset that the American government let one of their soldiers get away with murdering a Romanian.
To any Romanians reading this, now you know what the American government really thinks of the people who live here ;)
In other news that wasn’t reported in the mainstream press (as far as I can tell), another huge defense contractor, Thales, just sold sonobuoy processors to the Romanian Navy. Essentially these are sophisticated (and expensive) pieces of equipment (Ro: geamanduri) that helicopters drop into the water and they send sound waves into the water in order to find submarines.
Since the only “hostile” submarines that the Romanian Navy could be looking for would be Russian (based out of Sevastapol, Ukraine) then this is a “double win” week for the United States and its allies. I don’t know how much these buoys cost since it isn’t mentioned but clearly 638 million euros for some second-hand planes is a hell of a lot of money for this country especially when it’s billions of dollars in debt to the IMF and other banking institutions.
I am aware that the Mig-21’s that Romania flies currently are getting older and more obsolete every day and are prone to crashes and that all NATO members are required to use compatible aircraft and other weaponry so I know why Romania is making these purchases. I still have to ask though – why does Romania even need a military?
Except for a total of three ships used to patrol their waters (and rescue people), Iceland has no military at all. And yet it is a full member of NATO! Somehow Iceland manages to be in good standing as a full member and yet doesn’t have to shell out 600+ million euros for planes it doesn’t need. Why can’t Romania do the same?
Who exactly is Romania going to use this military against? Who is going to invade this country? I’m no military expert but both Russia and Ukraine have plenty of Sukhoi 27 fighter planes and everything I can find on the internet (including here) says that Su-27’s would easily outperform and outmaneuver crappy old F-16’s.
Who else would attack Romania (theoretically) anyway? Hungary is a fellow NATO ally as well as a member of the EU. No matter what conspiracies you might hear from ND or PRM, that’s never going to happen. Bulgaria? Poor as hell and tiny and never even a historical foe of Romania anyway. Serbia? Still recovering from the 1992 and 1999 NATO bombings. I don’t think so.
Quite frankly I have no idea why Romania has a military at all. Certainly there’s a need for rescuing ships and general Coast Guard duties, as well as patrolling borders and other internal policing needs but an actual military with tanks and fighter jets and all the rest just seems to be an absurd expense that this country neither needs nor honestly can even afford.
Of course it’s a sweet deal for America and its allies, which is why they sent CIA chief John Brennan into Bucharest yesterday to pat Basescu (and Ponta) on the head and tell them what good little obedient servants they are.
I happened to have a mole who was there at the meetings and what follows is an approximate transcript:
CIA chief Brennan: Basescu, I flew all the way here to say thanks for spending millions of euros you don’t have to buy our aging junk! Christ, we never thought we’d find anyone stupid enough to buy those ancient planes. Oh and thanks for sending 1,621 soldiers to Afghanistan to kill people who never did anything to Romania. Thanks for letting us torture people in a Romanian government building right in the heart of Bucharest. Thanks for letting us put missiles in Deveselu to piss off the Russians. It’s not like you need to buy natural gas from them or anything, right? And thanks for letting us send hundreds of FBI agents to your country to police your citizens. Oh and most of all, thanks for letting us spy on all of the internet use in your country. You’ve been great!
Basescu: It’s my pleasure to serve my masters! I just wonder when Romania might get a visa waiver for its citizens who want to go to the United States. You’ve been promising it to us for years.
Brennan: *hearty laugh* Keep on dreaming, fool!
AND NOW YOU KNOW